A couple of years after Deb and I got married, we were living at my Grandmother’s house because my Grandfather had passed away. My aunts had made the suggestion because it would give Deb and me the ability to live rent free and my Grandmother wouldn’t have to make any major life decisions right away and could stay in her home.
I was doing temp jobs at the time and thought I would take this opportunity to stay home and write. I was going to write the Great Canadian Play. Of course, I hadn’t written a play before, but that didn’t dissuade me. I wanted to be a playwright.
Deb would head off to work and I would go down to the basement to my computer and start up WordPerfect. (Ah, WordPerfect. How I loved thee…) The blank screen would dare me to write something. Anything.
I didn’t know what to write. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have an idea. Or at least a “good” idea.
After an unbearable few minutes, I’d blink and look away. I didn’t know it at the time, but Resistance had just stared me down.
Beaten, I’d open up SpaceQuest and play that for a few hours. When Deb would get home, she’d ask how the writing had gone. “Good,” I’d lie guiltily.
This went on for a few weeks.
Finally, I had to admit that I wasn’t a writer. The experiment had failed. I went back to finding temping jobs with my tail between my legs.
It took me about seventeen years after that to write my first play. (It was a journey that involved other types of writing, but that’s another story…)
Being stared down by the blank page or the empty screen is also known as Writer’s Block. For me, it was not knowing what to write or not being able to decide what idea was worth pursuing. I didn’t realize that until you try something (i.e. write a draft or two), you don’t know what you’ve got.
As a neophyte writer, I didn’t want to “waste” my time writing something that wasn’t good. And so I never started anything and didn’t give myself a chance to get better.
But rewriting is the main part of writing! MOST of your writing is REWRITING!
I didn’t understand that at the time.
When I first started doing “rewrites”, I would keep whole chunks of my previous draft and just change some words here or there. Now, I start over from the beginning. I start from a blank page.
With every blank page, I give Resistance another chance to stare me down. Sometimes Resistance wins. Sometimes I win.
The times when I beat Resistance is when I decide that I’m just going to write in little chunks of time until I finish a draft. That’s all. If I’ve started the draft, I have to finish it. And only when it’s only when it’s finished will I decide if it sucks or not. And if it sucks, then I’m happy for the writing experience I got from the effort.
© 2019 Peter Gruner